Related Archival Materials
Scope and Contents
Title: People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Litigation Records
Date (inclusive): 1984-1987
Collection Identifier: SFH 31
San Francisco (Calif.). Bureau of Communicable Disease Control.
(1.0 cubic feet)
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
Court documents and other records related to the case People of the State of California, ex rel. George Agnost, et al. vs.
Ima Jean Owen, et al. (Superior Court No. 830-321), aka People vs. Owen, filed October 10, 1984, by San Francisco City Attorney
George Agnost and Director of Public Health Mervyn Silverman, in an effort to close fourteen bathhouses, sex clubs, bookstores,
and adult movie theaters by claiming them to be a public nuisance, in response to the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.
The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
The collection is open for research. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.
Four confidential documents written between City Attorneys and Department of Public Health officials are restricted from public
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
[Identification of item], People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Litigation Records, 1984-1987 (SFH 31), San Francisco History
Center, San Francisco Public Library.
The collection was acquired via an anonymous donation December 18, 1996.
Related Archival Materials
Researchers are encouraged to see also AIDS Office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health Records, 1982-1994 (SFH
Researchers are encouraged to see also "The San Francisco Bathhouse Battles of 1984: Civil Liberties, AIDS Risk, and Shifts
in Health Policy." Disman, Christopher. Co-published simultaneously in
Journal of Homosexuality, (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 44, Nos. ¾, 2003, pp. 71-129; and
Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy, (ed. William J. Woods and Diane Binson) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2003, pp. 71-129.
During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some metal staples
The court case People of the State of California, ex rel. George Agnost, et al. vs. Ima Jean Owen, et al. (Superior Court
No. 830-321), aka People vs. Owen, filed Oct. 10, 1984 by San Francisco City Attorney George Agnost and Director of Public
Health Mervyn Silverman, documents the efforts of the San Francisco Department of Public Health to close fourteen bathhouses,
sex clubs, bookstores, and adult movie theaters by claiming them to be a public nuisance, as a response to the then-new knowledge
of sexual methods of AIDS transmission. More broadly, the case positions San Francisco in a local and ultimately national
public debate over AIDS–related policies in the 1980s, in which city officials, community activists, and private citizens
struggle with the relationship between public health and gay civil rights.
Defendant businesses in the original Oct. 10 complaint were: The Academy; The Animals; The Boot Camp; Club Baths of San Francisco;
California Baths Corp.; Club San Francisco; Folsom Gulch Books; Gartman Enterprises; Jack's Turkish Baths; Jaguar Book Store;
The Savages Theater; San Francisco Health Club; Tea Room Theater; The Slot Hotel; The Baths.
Although the provenance of this collection is unknown, based on the organization and original notations on the material, the
records appear to be from the files of Dean Echenberg, then-Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, of the
San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Scope and Contents
The bulk of the material consists of copies of pleadings filed by both plaintiffs and defendants, including declarations of
physicians, public health experts, and investigators, upon which the City based its application for a temporary restraining
order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to enforce Dr. Silverman's closure order of Oct. 9, 1984; along with
subsequent court filings, including writs of supersedeas, a summons, the modified preliminary injunction, depositions, supplemental
declarations, exhibits, and a defendants' first set of interrogatories. There is also some case-related correspondence, including
letters, memos, articles, and investigative reports, between city officials, law firms, private investigators, and community
organizations. Some correspondence concerns proposed legislation to transfer jurisdiction for bathhouses from the Police Code
to the Health Code.
The declarations in support of the bathhouse closures are of particular interest, as they reflect a representative set of
medical and official points of view on businesses that facilitate public gay sex and the relationship of these businesses
to the spread of AIDS. Declarants include Mervyn Silverman, Director of Public Health (DPH); Dean Echenberg, Director of the
Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at DPH; faculty and administrators at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),
San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), Mount Zion Hospital, the AIDS Activities Office, San Francisco Veterans Administration
Medical Center, California State Department of Health Services, the Center for Disease Control; and several private investigators.
The collection is arranged in two series: Series 1. Sex clubs/Bathhouses Subject Files, 1984-1986; Series 2. Court documents,
1984-1987. Series 2 is arranged chronologically.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
San Francisco (Calif.). Bureau of Communicable Disease Control. -- Archives
AIDS (Disease)--California--San Francisco--History
AIDS (Disease)--Government policy--California--San Francisco
AIDS (Disease)--Political aspects
Civil court records
Gay bathhouses--California--San Francisco.
Gay men--Sexual behavior--Government policy--California--San Francisco.
Echenberg, Dean Fredric